By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
In terms of ambition , political cunning and ruthlessness, the careers of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria and Abubakar Malami are similar, most especially in the grandiose scale of their political ambition.
Beria was an interesting figure in the administration of Joseph talin, former dictator of Soviet Union, same way Malami is an important voice in the Buhari presidency. It is as much a recognition of Malami’s leading position in the current administration, and the sum total of his larger than life presence in the Buhari presidency that Business Hallmark newspaper gave him deservedly the award of the Public Servant of the Year last year.
As it was with Beria so it is with Malami on the scale of ambition and the ruthlessness with which they pursued it.
Beria was born on 17 March 1899 and died 23 December 1953, Beria was a
Georgian Bolshevik and Soviet politician, Marshal of the Soviet Union and state security administrator, chief of the Soviet security, and chief of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) under Joseph Stalin during World War II , and promoted to deputy premier under Stalin from 1941. He later officially joined the Politburo in 1946.
Beria was the longest-lived and most influential of Stalin’s secret police chiefs, wielding his most substantial influence during and after World War II. Following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, he was responsible for organising purges such as the Katyn massacre of 22,000 Polish officers and officials. He simultaneously administered vast sections of the Soviet state, and acted as the de facto Marshal of the Soviet Union in command of NKVD field units responsible
for barrier troops and Soviet partisan intelligence and sabotage operations on the Eastern Front during World War II. Beria administered the vast expansion of the Gulag labour camps, and was primarily responsible for overseeing the secret detention facilities for scientists and engineers known as sharashkas .
In 1945, Beria attended the Yalta Conference with Stalin, who introduced him to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as “our Himmler”.
After the war, he organised the communist takeover of the state institutions in central and eastern Europe. Beria’s uncompromising ruthlessness in his duties and skill at producing results culminated in his success in overseeing the Soviet atomic bomb project.
Stalin gave it absolute priority, and the project was completed in under five years.
After Stalin’s death in March 1953, Beria became First Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers and head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs . In this dual capacity, he formed a troika with Georgy Malenkov and Vyacheslav Molotov, that briefly led the country in Stalin’s place. A coup d’état by Nikita Khrushchev , with help from Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov in June 1953, removed Beria from power. After being arrested, he was tried for treason and other offenses, sentenced to death, and executed on 23 December 1953. During his trial, and after his death, numerous allegations arose of Beria being a serial sexual predator.
Beria in his blind ambition to become leader of Soviet Union, victimised and led the purges of rivals and political competitors, until Khruschev organised a successful coup against him.
Malami has lately been in the news for the wrong reasons. He has not been credited for initiating law reforms, in spite of being the youngest attorney-general, rather the news around him centres on either having spat with his colleagues in the legal profession or spotlight on his alleged ill-gotten wealth.
There have been speculations in the media that Malami is a long standing ally of President Buhari, but much more an important member of the cabal around the Buhari who are believed to be the power -behind -the scene pulling presidential string.
The Attorney -General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has begun moves to take a shot at the 2023 presidency, according to this newspaper investigation.
Malami’s bid, it was further gathered, will rely heavily on funds in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under the care of the new chairmanship.
Malami who has the new EFCC Chairman, 40-year-old Abdulrasheed Bawa, in his pocket, has dropped his earlier ambition of contesting the Kebbi State governorship election and is rather gunning for the Presidency.
It was gathered that Malami would use his influence in the Presidency to attempt to change the permutations in the All Progressives Congress or rather look for another party as cover to pursue his ambition.
“The AGF has upgraded to presidential campaign. He has abandoned the Kebbi State governorship ambition. He said he is too big to contest for governor, having made so much money under the Buhari administration.
“He has been a minister for eight years and now he is in charge of the EFCC after putting Bawa, his boy, there. He was desperate to take over the anti-graft agency so that he could make more money and determine candidates for the 2023 elections,” a source close to Malami said.
Recently, Olusegun Bamgbose, National Coordinator, Concerned Advocates for Good Governance, CAGG, has claimed that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is plotting to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari come 2023.
Malami, according to Bamgbose, has taken over the leadership of the cabals and just like late Abba Kyari, he (AGF)is also eyeing the Presidential Villa.
To achieve this, Bamgbose, a senior lawyer and 2023 presidential hopeful, said that Malami, as a lawyer by profession, is leaving no stone unturned and has made the National Leader of the All
Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Tinubu his first target.
“He [Malami] is fully aware of Tinubu’s EFCC ordeal. It was an arrangement. Tinubu could be his biggest obstacle and so he must go down as soon as possible,” Bamgbose told DAILY POST.
“Politics is a game played by the Masters, won by the smartest. The cabals are at work. The late Chief of Staff Abba Kyari was undoubtedly the leader of the cabals when he was alive.
“It was rumored back then that he was hatching a plan to take over from Buhari, but death swept him away from the political horizon.
“Malami, the AGF, has taken over the leadership of the Cabals. Interestingly, just like late Abba Kyari, he is also eyeing the Presidential Villa.
“He has started putting things in order to take over from Buhari come 2023. It’s most likely a sitting Governor from the South West may end up becoming his running mate. In essence, the cabals will want to ensure that power will be retained by the North come 2023.
“Malami as a Lawyer by profession is leaving no stones unturned to actualize his Presidential ambition. Tinubu is his first target.
“The game is really becoming interesting. Tinubu is equally restrategising to beat down Malami. This might not be an easy task anyway.
“The North is not comfortable with Tinubu’s Presidential ambition. They very well understand that his silence on national issues is not an indication that he will be loyal to them.
“Tinubu should however forget any form of sympathy from the South West ,it’s nemesis at work. However let it be known to Malami that no amount of strategies and scheming will make him to succeed Buhari.
“The Presidency must go to South come 2023. it’s never negotiable. It will be inequitable and unacceptable.
Machaveli has stated that “Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are. If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. The lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves.”
Many commentators spoken to by this newspaper agree that Malami is eyeing the Presidency, ” and that explains his ruthless takeover of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in order to provide him with the tool to hunt down political rivals ; especially Tinubu , and also to make money through the agency to oil his ambition come 2023.
As Machiavelli stated above, and quoted thus “if an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”
Malami is said to be making efforts to sufficiently injure political rivals using EFCC such that they will be too weak to fight back, making him to coast to victory seamlessly.
Dr. Tola Agunbiade, a political scientist said “it would be difficult for a Northern to succeed Buhari. No matter his schemes, Malami can not succeed because reality of the geopolitical configuration of the country will checkmate him.”
Agunbiade told this newspaper that “the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves, that is what Machiavelli says; thus as a lion , Malami will eventually fall victim of political traps.”
Malami is said to have been instrumental to the emergence of Abdulrasheed Bawa as EFCC chairman.
On appointment of Bawa, Professor Itse Sagay, chairman Presidential Task Force on Anti-corruption, was said to have expressed great concerns that Bawa and Malami come from the same state, citing enormous influence the later could wield on the former. Malami, according to reports, ignored the EFCC report which indicted Bawa of corruption and prevailed on Buhari to appoint him EFCC Chairman. ” The appointment of Bawa is a great victory for Malami and a big plus for his political ambition of succeeding Buhari”, says Dr Bolarinwa Adele, an international relations expert.
Only recently, the House of Representatives summoned the new Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission , Abdulrasheed Bawa, to come forward and explain the circumstances surrounding the transfer of some forfeited assets to the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation.
Also to appear before an ad hoc committee of the House set up to compile and review projects and fixed assets belonging to the Federal Government across Nigeria , are the Minister of Justice and Attorney – General of the Federation , Abubakar Malami (SAN ).
The Chairman of the committee , Ademorin Kuye, noted that the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor- General of the Federation was supposed to appear before the lawmakers in company with some directors last Thursday but did not show up.
The acting Director of Asset Forfeiture and Recovery Management , EFCC , Mr Aliyu Yusuf, appeared before the committee but the lawmakers expressed their displeasure with the information provided.
He said while forfeited assets had been transferred to the OAGF, operatives of the commission still guarded the properties.
Yusuf , while responding to some of the questions from the lawmakers , said , “ The EFCC has not really undertaken any serious disposal of assets . The only asset that was disposed of was the trucks, which were seized in Port Harcourt ( Rivers State capital).
“ All the finally forfeited assets – real estate – were all intact until this new regulation came into effect , which was made by the Honourable Attorney – General that requires us to transfer all forfeited assets to the Office of the AGF for management . That regulation was made in October 2019 and we have complied with that ;
we have forwarded the lists and court orders for all finally forfeited assets to the Office of the AGF for management . ”
Kuye, however, faulted the regulation introduced by Malami , saying it breached Section 31 of the EFCC Act, particularly Sub – sections 1 and 4 .
A member of the committee , Lynda Ikpeazu , demanded the list of assets already transferred to the OAGF as well as the timeline of those transfers .
Many commentators believe the transfer of assets is part of Malami’s plot to financially oil his ambition.
In late 2020, an anticorruption coalition wrote President Mohammadu Buhari listing 14 high profile corruption allegations against the country’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar
Malami, who is one of Buhari’s closest allies.
The allegations range from financial sleaze involving him and his family to influence peddling. In a letter sent to the President then tagged Compilation of Corruption Allegations and Abuse of Office Against the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice three leading anti-corruption groups call for immediate probe of the Minister.
The groups said the immediate option before the AGF was to resign and give way for full inquiry into the grand allegations that seemed to portray the AGF as stunningly corrupt.
In the petition, President Buhari was urged to put in motion the Public inquiry or risk legal fireworks from lawyers in the country.
“It has to be now or never. There are very strong allegations of corruption against Mr Abubakar Malami with clear evidence. President Buhari should act now. We have listed these corruption cases after painstaking compilation of high profile corruption cases involving the country’s No 1 law officer.
The President must act without delay”, the group said in the petition signed by Civil Society Network Against Corruption (CSNAC), Chairman, Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL Chairman, Mr Debo Adeniran and Co-founder, Say No Campaign, Ezenwa Nwagwu. The CSNAC is a coalition of some 150 civil society spread across the country.
The coalition said the response of President Buhari to the allegations has the prospect of determining the future of the anti-corruption campaign in the country.
“We are perturbed by these reports considering the revered position occupied by Mr. Malami, being the number one law officer of the country. Some of the allegations as conveyed in the media reports go to the root of breakdown of law and order and total disregard for the rule of law. These allegations serve as a slap in the face to your Excellency’s administration foremost goal of ridding the Nation of corruption. These allegations are totally opposite the core objectives of your administration and international perception of the country”, the three groups wrote in the petition to Buhari.
Top on the list is the alleged auctioning of sea vessels holding crude oil seized by the Federal Government, violating Section 31(2) and (4) of the EFCC Act 2004.
“The AGF also authorized the sale of these vessels by companies under EFCC prosecution for similar offence of illegal bunkering and this action was admitted by the AGF through his media aide pleading presumption of innocence on the part of the accused, in the case being prosecuted by the Federal Government through EFCC,” the groups wrote quoting a string of earlier media reports.
They accuse Malami of twisting the law to shield his family members, corrupt officials and institutions in the most brazen manners. Malami was said to be responsible for the reinstatement of Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) into the Federal Civil Service Commission without due process. He was said to have filed for the discontinuation of a 25billion Naira criminal charge against Senator Danjuma Goje without any justification, after over 7 years of diligent investigation and prosecution by the EFCC, whereas in June 2020 he allegedly withdrew criminal charges against soldiers who were accused of killing police officers and a civilian in the bid to aid the escape of Wadume, a millionaire kidnapper.
The coalition said that on November 18, 2018, Mr Malami, through a lawyer from his office, Mr Pius Akuta, came to Lagos High Court to withdraw a case of fraud filed by EFCC against one Dr. John Abebe, a businessman and younger brother to late Stella Obasanjo but the EFCC resisted the illegal move before Justice Dada of the Lagos High Court on the ground that the AGF has no constitutional power to take over a case filed in Lagos High Court.
Other examples listed included the withdrawal of the case against the Chairman, Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), Mr Danladi Yakubu for criminal charges, demand for the withdrawal of the cases against Bello Adoke, Diezani Alison-Madueke and others involved in the Malabu scandal and his halting investigation of huge fraud in Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL).
The Malabu scam involves the controversial OPL 245 which has seen Nigeria recover some $78 million from individuals already convicted in Italy as oil giants linked with the graft continue to face prosecution in Milan.
The AGF was said to have sent a letter ordering the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission, (ICPC) and the Department of State
Services, (DSS) and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit, (NFIU) to all stop probe of the NIRSAL scam.
He was said to have described the investigations as an “unhealthy competition” and “sheer waste of government resources”.
Malami is also accused of being the kingpin in the alleged duplicity of payment of $16.9 million fees to two friends as new lawyers for the recovery of the loot traced to a former Nigerian Head of State, Sanni Abacha, after a Swiss lawyer hired and fully paid by the previous government, Enrico Monfrini, to help in the recovery had completed his brief as reported.
Malami was said to have barred the prosecution of the former Comptroller General of Customs, Mohammed Inde Dikko, through a suspicious deal between the AGF and the Immediate past DSS Director on one side and the Comptroller General of Customs to refund $8 million to the Federal Government.
The case was discontinued as Justice Dimgba refused to allow further prosecution of this matter under the guise that Mr. Dikko had kept his promise under the agreement by refunding N1,576,000,000 and more to the FG through the EFCC funds recovery account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The FG earlier accused Mr. Dikko of stealing over N40 billion.
The groups said its investigations and media reports suggest that Malami own assets worth billions far ahead of what he owned before his appointment as the country’s AGF.
Some of the properties listed in his name were a multimillion naira Rayhaan Hotels worth about N500million, located at opposite Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Zaria Road, Kano State, a property worth about N600million Naira locate at Ahmadu Bello Way, Nasarawa GRA, Kano, a newly constructed school at the back of Nitel at Gesse Phase 1, Birni Kebbi worth about N700million, a multi million Naira property built by Mr.Malami for his son located at Gesse Phase II in Birni Kabbi worth over N400 million, a mansion known as Azbir Arena allegedly built by Mr. Malami for his second son.
Azbir Arena an entertainment centre worth over N3 Billion, with a big plaza and kids playing centre and hotel all combined in one expansive property.
The groups accused Mr. Malami of other misconducts like using the official letterhead of the office of AGF to seek support for his son’s wedding and that he encouraged the defacing of Naira and other currencies to the embarrassment of the country and in violation of section 21(1) and (3) of the Central Bank Act, 2007.
During the wedding of his son, Mr. Malami was also accused of allowing the breach of Covid-19 protocol and regulations putting the lives of Nigerians at risk. In Ghana recently, a similar incidence led to the resignation of a minister for breach of the country’s Covid-19 protocols.
The coalition stated “At ICPC, Mr Malami also displayed his unpretentious hatred for the fight against corruption by writing a letter dated 16th December, 2016 withdrawing the case of fraud filed against Mr. Godsday Orubebe, the former Minister of Niger Delta, in a case involving over N1.97billion, on the ground that in his opinion, there was no basis for filing the charge against him.”
“We strongly believe that the above allegations are deserving of thorough, immediate and urgent investigation through an independent panel of inquiry and the Attorney General suspended from office pending the conclusion of this investigation; the veracity or otherwise of these allegations is essential for the sanity of the public service.”
The groups said “the law presumes any allegation as a suspicion until the suspect is so proven guilty; we as organizations, relentless in seeing transparency and accountability actualized and that due process is deployed in investigating corruption, abuse of power and office belief the allegations leveled against the Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami is deserving of your urgent action.”
The coalitions said they believe in the prevalence and sanctity of the rule of law. “We believe in due process which is why we have forwarded this petition to your Excellency for proper and diligent investigation and timeous action in order to restore the sanity of the core mandate of your administration to fight corruption which is at the verge of collapse as a result of the alleged abuse of power by your attorney-general.
Business Hallmark’s investigation showed that nothing came of the petition, as many analysts believe Malami is a sacred cow.
He was said to have hooded Magu, former EFCC chairman out of office to pave way for his kinsman.
Born on 17 April 1967 in Birnin Kebbi, the capital of Kebbi State, Northern Nigeria. His early formal education began at Nassarawa Primary School, Birnin Kebbi before he completed his secondary school education at College of Arts and Arabic Studies.
In 1991, he graduated from Usmanu Danfodiyo University where he studied Law and was called to the bar in 1992. He is an alumnus of the University of Maiduguri where he obtained his master’s degree in Public Administration in 1994.
After graduating, he became a legal practitioner, serving in various capacities including being a counsel and magistrate in Kebbi State, Nigeria.
Early political career Malami was the National Legal Adviser of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change . He was actively involved in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 as the resource person to the Manifesto Drafting Sub-Committee of Inter Joint Party Merger Committees between the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
In 2014, Abubakar contested for the governorship ticket of the All Progressives Congress in Kebbi State but lost the primaries to Atiku Bugudu.
Minister of Justice On 11 November 2015, Abubakar was appointed as Minister for Justice and Attorney-General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria thus making him the youngest minister in Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet.
On 21 August 2019, he was re-appointed as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation by President Muhammadu Buhari on 21 August 2019.